Above: Designing new transport packages is just one of the exciting challenges for nuclear engineers

Last year, Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS), the global nuclear transport and logistics company, were selected by the UK government to receive £1m (US$1.3m) funding to design a new transport package for High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel which will be used in new nuclear developments including Small Modular Reactors (SMR).

Sean Perry, Lead Design Engineer, at NTS is heading up this ground-breaking project which could support a new generation of nuclear reactors. “The feeling I got when I found out my HALEU transport package project was being backed with £1m funding by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, was unreal,” he tells NEI.

Sean and his team are working on all aspects of the package design, including radiological shielding, criticality, structural analysis, and meeting all international standards and regulations.

“It’s a really exciting time to be an engineer especially in the nuclear industry,” he said, adding: “HALEU requires innovative transportation solutions to ensure it can be moved safely and securely to new reactors. The new package will be versatile to allow us to transport HALEU in multiple forms, such as powder or fuel elements. We’ve made some rapid progress already and it really helps that we have in-house criticality and shielding experts, it really speeds up the process and ensures we have the right data to hand immediately.”

Sean’s role at NTS has evolved over the years through his passion for engineering and problem solving. He said: “I joined NTS in 2013 under the nuclear graduates’ scheme after studying engineering at the University of Leeds, and soon got to grips with the fascinating world of nuclear transport. I’d always wanted to be an engineer, so when I began working on the Dounreay Exotics programme at NTS, I excelled through my enjoyment of understanding how things worked. I’ve had the opportunity to lead on some really exciting projects that could be revolutionary for NTS.

“Alongside the HALEU package project, I’m also supporting on the Standard Waste Transport Container – SWTC-255 – which is being developed to transport all the UK’s Low Heat Generating Waste (LHGW) from storage sites to a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). It is designed to be transported by road, rail and sea, and within the UK’s most restrictive rail gauge.”

A GDF is needed to store all the country’s nuclear waste safely for thousands of years and is expected to house somewhere in the region of 650,000 cubic metres of higher activity waste and nuclear materials. This will require a great deal of transport and the SWTC-255 will be key to moving this material to a future GDF.

“Its versatility is what makes it different to all of the packages currently available and means there’s no need to change the design of existing nuclear material containers so there are significant cost savings and efficiencies to be had. It is designed to move waste in the form of standardised containers known as Disposal Units. The variety of Disposal Units provide flexibility for UK sites in disposing LHGW. However, other content could be transported in the SWTC, subject to appropriate verification. NTS is also looking at licencing the package in other countries so it really could be the ‘go to’ nuclear waste transport container.”

Sean concludes: “With the world’s nuclear renaissance in full swing and the need for solutions to new engineering challenges, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a nuclear engineer.”